Digital book apps for children continue to be popular, and the number of available apps continues to grow. As technology and knowledge of the capabilities of the iPad also continue to improve, the quality and features of newer apps become more impressive and utilize new features.
Newer iPads contain cameras that produce pictures of higher quality and, with expanded editing capabilities, allow users to customize many children's book apps with personalized, cropped pictures more specific and focused than previous versions, iPads with microphones allow children or adults to record their own voices, and enhanced technologies allow the background scenes to roll off the screen, revealing themselves when the iPad or tablet is turned or shifted from side to side.
Video technologies allow video to be infused into book apps, making for interactive narrative and video experiences including being able to view the picture book from a first person point of view or seeing the images from the eyes of a character.
The lines and definitions between e-books and digital book apps remain blurred. As technology improved, e-books slowly transitioned into digital apps--interactive book experiences that go beyond the words and images on a static page. I am defining an e-book as a print book scanned into electronic form, much as a book is viewed on a Kindle or through iBooks. The images and the print on the pages have not been altered, and the book is not interactive. Apps take the static words and pictures found in a print book and alter them, making them interactive in a myriad of ways. Some features utilized in apps include tapping or swiping at the screen for a reactive effect; the infusion of animation, video, and sound; altering perspectives; incorporating a camera or microphone; and the inclusion of related activities and games.
Book apps can tell the same, or slightly altered, tale of a children's book originally published in print form. They can be newly created stories using familiar characters from print books. They can also be stories written and developed specifically as a book app. This third category of books differs slightly, as the storytelling was developed with the technological capabilities of the iPad in mind.
In the book apps reviewed below, each app story was originally available in print form and has been transitioned into a digital book app. Additional components to the stories and interactive elements are included, expanding the experience.
Although nothing will take the place of a print book experience, digital book apps offer a different experience while still encouraging a love of reading and viewing stories. If digital book apps are new to you, I offer the following selection as a useful starting point.
The Book of Holes
$4.99, available for iPad
This app corresponds to the original board book that has a physical hole cut out of the center. The physical book allows a reader to poke through the book, while the app version provides a different interaction when tapping the hole on each page including sound effects and animation. This app remains true to the original text that explores holes in our bodies and our world. An added feature is a parents' page with ideas for sharing the app and a "Clues" section giving hints to parents on items in the app to be discovered and shared.
pat the bunny[R] Hop into Spring!
$3.99, available for all Apple devices
Based on the book by Dorothy Kunhardt, this app warmly welcomes young readers of the print story. Each page follows the original pattern with a reader interaction that matches the text. Two favorites from the print version appear, appropriately updated for a device (the "mirror," for example, employs the camera), accompanied by new pages with perfectly adapted effects such as joining Bunny to "pop" bubbles. Easy navigation and options to read, listen, or paint with a simple rubbing swipe are perfect for the intended audience.
Who Stole the Moon?
$4.99 for iPad, $2.99 for iPhone, "lite" version available for free on both devices www.windypress.com/whostolethemoon
Based on the book of the same name, this app allows the reader to tilt and scroll to reveal hidden portions of the screen, tap and interact, and, significant to the story, swipe and move clouds out the sky, reinforcing a key element of the book's plot. Unique to this app is the availability to leave the app and go to a variety of Internet and social media pages. Although sometimes distracting, the links are only available on the home page. Also included are numerous language options, original songs sung to the reader or available as karaoke versions, and four related games such as puzzle pages and matching games.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
$4.99, available for iPad
Developed by Moonbot Studios, this app is based on an award-winning short animated film and a picture book of the same name. Along with viewing the original text and images from the story, the app includes music and video providing an enhanced experience. What makes this app stand out is the necessity of reader interaction to propel the story forward. Readers are asked to participate in an action, sometimes a traditional interaction such as swiping or tapping the screen, but in this app the interaction makes a character move or make a sound essential to the plot. Other unique features include inviting the reader to play the piano, complete a puzzle, or fly with Morris Lessmore as if you are the character himself. Lastly, the incorporation of IMAG-N-O-TRON allows the users to point their iPads on the print version and make the page come magically to life on device's screen.
The Barefoot World Atlas App.
$4.99, available for all Apple devices
An interactive world atlas developed in partnership by Barefoot Books and Touch Press, this app builds on a print book precursor. It provides a hands-on experience for exploring the world while teaching geography and social studies facts. To begin, there is a globe that readers can spin and land on any country they wish to explore. Facts such as current weather, population statistics, and common methods of transportation are included, along with music and other cultural elements unique to that country. Animated illustrations highlighting features of each country are also included.
$2.99, available for iPad
Roxie's Doors, a digital book app corresponding to the picture book Doors by Roxie Munro, is an adaption of a much loved lift-the-flap book for young children. In this app, readers must search for ten highlighted objects per page, identified by red highlighted words in the rhyming text. As each object is found, the highlighting turns green. Rather than lifting a physical flap, a door is tapped or a drawer is swiped open to reveal a myriad of animated and interactive items and corresponding sound effects, encouraging children to search, tap, and explore. Tilting the screen reveals hidden objects animated with a 3D effect, adding challenge to the search and discover feature.
Melanie D. Koss is an assistant professor in the Department of Literacy Education at Northern Illinois University, firstname.lastname@example.org
She is a member of the IRA Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group, which publishes weekly sets of K-12 book reviews on Reading Today Online at www.reading.org/readingtoday. See www.reading.org/clr for details.